Career Benefits of Study Abroad
The majority of students study abroad during their sophomore or junior years. This means that you will have at least one, and perhaps two, years to “unpack” your study abroad experience upon returning to campus. This is enough time to clarify how your international experience could influence your career goals and impact your job search strategy. It is up to you to make the case and demonstrate the link between your study abroad experience and the specific skills valued by the company or organization you want to work for.
Upon Your Return to Campus:
- Attend the CGE Returnee Luncheon & Workshop, which will be held at the beginning of the semester you return to Marymount. At this session, a great deal of information will be provided regarding resources and events that study abroad alumni can take advantage of upon their return to process the personal and professional impact of their international experiences.
- Visit a career services advisor to revise and edit your resume to incorporate the new interpersonal skills and intercultural competencies that you strengthened while abroad.
- Discuss ways to strengthen your cover letter to articulate how your study abroad experience is an asset for an employer.
- Participate in campus or community programs that provide opportunities to practice articulating what you learned and the steps you took to gain or strengthen intercultural and professional skills. Discuss your international experience with international students from the country in which you studied to gain a fresh perspective on the culture and values of that society.
- As you prepare to conduct your job search, re-write your resume, develop a cover letter, and prepare for interviews, keep in mind the qualities and skills that employers expect of a candidate who had studied abroad. These would include:
- Strong problem solving skills and keen analytic ability
- Tolerance for ambiguity and ability to adapt in new environments
- Interpersonal communications skills
- Cross-cultural competencies (could include language skills and ability to work well in different cultural settings)
- Personal traits such as character, self-reliance, and dependability
Articulating Newly Acquired Skills & Competencies in a Resume
Before writing your resume, you need to reflect upon the international skills and competencies you have gained from your study abroad experience. As we suggest on our Education Abroad & Career Development page , the time to consider how your experience “fits” into your resume is before you leave campus. Whether or not you visit a career counselor before departure, you do want to make an appointment to see an advisor upon your return.
While there are generally accepted formats for a resume, it’s best to discuss your document with a career services counselor or advisor who understands your specific academic program and career interests or preferences. Audit your time abroad to highlight professional experiences and new intercultural competencies, and be prepared to describe them – using specific language in your resume. You will need to develop a number of unique and individualized bullet points that show specific ways in which you gained skills and competencies during your study abroad experience.
An employer will not automatically “see” what may be very obvious to you about a skill or an experience you had while studying abroad! It’s up to you to showcase and articulate the value of critical incidents, classroom work, community engagement, or international travel – and to be able to discuss why any or all of these activities make you a strong candidate for a particular job assignment in an organization or company.
In capturing your study abroad experience on you resume, consider using alternative titles for your section headers that will showcase your overseas experience and related accomplishments on your home campus include. Some section headers to consider include:
- Global Experience
- Cross-Cultural Campus Involvement
- Foreign Languages
- Countries Visited
- Volunteer Service
Here are examples of the type of thought-provoking phrases you might use to craft bullet statements about different international experiences on your resume.
Strengthened Cross-Cultural Skills:
- Adapted to cultural differences and customs through daily interaction with my host family over a period of 4 months
- Overcame societal differences and fostered cultural understanding through a short-term work experience at a local business
- Gained a greater appreciation for diversity and cultural differences through voluntary service experience at a local school
Developed Language Competency/Communication Skills:
- Passed proficiency examination in [name of language] or obtained certificate for intensive language study at [name of college or institute]
- Cultivated language and communication skills through sustained dialogue with my host family and others whom I met in my host community
- Learned to use nonverbal and verbal communication to overcome language barriers
- Learned how to adapt to unanticipated situations and improvise new plans due to periodic travel mishaps and unexpected events
- Modified my way of life to maximize exposure and opportunities for learning in my local community
*Adapted from the Career Development Center, SUNY-Binghamton
Examples of how you can capture your study abroad program on your resume.
Presenting Skills & Competencies in a Cover Letter
A cover letter complements the experiences outlined on your resume. It should not replicate the same information in a prose style format. It should highlight the attributes that set you apart from other candidates! One such attribute is your international experience while you studied abroad. The cover letter should demonstrate to an employer – in as explicit language as possible – why you possess the skills and experiences that are a match for the requirements of the job.
- Keep it to one page
- Write it in a formal business style
- Even if it’s not evident that the job requires international experience, you can highlight appropriate transferable skills gained through your time abroad (e.g:, independence, tolerance, self-confidence, problem-solving skills, ability to adapt in different environments and to work in harmony with people of differing values and backgrounds)
- If the job is with an international NGO or a multinational company doing business in the part of the world where you studied, then the direct value of all your international and intercultural skills is more obvious – but you still need to be specific in describing how your studies, skills, and competencies will be of value in your performance on the job
Articulating Skills & Competencies in an Interview
A good interview is about telling a good story. It’s about weaving a narrative in response to questions about your ability to do a job, carry out your duties, and adapt to the organization and its expectations of staff.
When speaking to employers, address the value of both the general and the specific skills you developed while studying abroad. It’s important not to assume that the interviewer will realize how your international experience is relevant to your candidacy.
Examples might include: You are adept at managing change; you are independent and have self-discipline while being sensitive to the needs of others. Dozens of work-related characteristics are developed abroad, which you can discuss in your interview: resourcefulness, versatility, persistence, an observant and calm demeanor, diligence, multifaceted skills in communications, broad and strategic thinking, an ability to deal with ambiguities, courage, an ability to take on challenging work, open-mindedness, flexibility, resourcefulness, tact, listening and observing skills, an ability to deal with stress, sense of humor, awareness of interpersonal politics, respect for protocol and hierarchy, loyalty, and tenacity. An interviewer may provide you with an opportunity to tell a story based upon your international experience and your answers to any question should not be too lengthy. Questions may be posed like these:
- What did you learn about yourself as a result of your study abroad experience?
- Why did you choose to study in [name of country]? Why was it important to you?
- How did you get engaged in the local culture outside the classroom?
- Can you describe a time when you had to change your behavior to accommodate or adjust to different local conditions?
- Practice – practice – practice
- Work with your career services office to arrange a mock interview with an alumnus ideally someone who studied abroad!
- Craft examples to share in the interview that illustrate how you gained a specific interpersonal or intercultural skill during your study abroad experience
**All of the information on this page is derived from the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS), Student Guide to Study Abroad & Career Development, by Martin Tillman